Tag Archives: navy

The Greatest Casualty is to Be Forgotten – Memorial Day is for Remembering

With Memorial Day right around the corner. A surefire sign is all the sale flyers clogging my mailbox and junking up my spam filters.  Everyone (myself included) is talking about holiday menus and impending summer fun. And while I’m looking forward to all of that as well, I thought I’d dust off this post again in hopes that we can all keep memory in our Memorial Day.

The bulk of this was written several years before my oldest son became a Marine – an event that forever changed what saying “my fellow veterans,” means to me. 

Don't Forget What Memorial Day is About

Memorial Day – like Veteran’s day – is not about the sales or that long awaited three-day weekend. It isn’t about nabbing a great deal on a new mattress. We live in The Land of The Free… because of the brave.  Let us not forget those who serve, but especially on Memorial Day let us not forget those who gave all. 

Memorial Day is not Veterans day. Though the bulk of this post is about my experience as a veteran, I think it’s important that we make the distinction.  This isn’t a day to thank me for my service, it’s a day to honor those who died in service to this nation. 

Think that just means stopping by crumbly old memorial in a historic park somewhere that marks the site of a battle? Think again. Yes we should honor all those who paid the ultimate price of freedom, but I challenge you to make it a point to honor those lost in recent history.  Those who never came back and those that came back only to lose the battle at home.

An average of 22 veterans take their own lives daily. DAILY! Yes, they are causalities of war. Heroes that fought for your freedom the same as any lost on foreign soil.

Enjoy your three-day weekend, grill up something tasty. While you’re at it stop by a local veterans memorial, buy that poppy from the Vet set up in front of the big box store. Ask them about their story, let them tell it. Listen with an open heart, hear what they don’t say. In the retelling they honor those who never came back. Keep the memory in Memorial Day.

(originally published November 11, 2009)

Today is Veteran’s day and I always thought it was a bit awkward to say “Happy Veteran’s Day”. Not because I’m not happy to have served my country. I think it has something to do with knowing some of the hardships that come along with that service. I was a 19 year old kid when I left the familiar surroundings of my small town and boarded a plane for Navy basic training in Orlando, Florida. It was just after Thanksgiving 1990 and I couldn’t believe how cold it was in Florida, I thought this was supposed to be the sunshine state! I was scared out of my mind, lost and really regretting being the first person in my family to have joined the Navy.A few weeks into training our Company Commanders came into our compartment and removed all the drill weapons. They then announced that the Operation Desert Storm was underway. We were allowed one call home. With the sound of Bing Crosby singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” playing over the PA I called my parents. That was the first time it really hit me what it meant to be a member of the armed services.

 

Yep that’s me on the right all snuggled up to Fifle the mouse from An American tale. I’d go on to cry every time I heard the theme song “Somewhere out there” while serving a continent away from my family and friends. Okay I STILL cry when I hear it.  To my right is the best buddy any sailor could ask for Michelle Graf! 

I went on to become a Navy Airman and made it to 
my first duty station in Rota, Spain. Rota was a stop on the way to both Iraq and Somalia when I was there. Ships came through with Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force Airmen. I count myself privileged to have served, partied, jaw jacked, worked my butt off and mourned with many of them.

Among them all I was honored to serve under Admiral Jeremy Michael “Mike” Boorda. Admiral Boorda is to this day someone I admire beyond words. He worked his way up from the lowest of enlisted rank, Seaman, to go on and become an Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations. I was honored to have had a one-on-one conversation with him. When he reportedly took his own life a hole was ripped in my heart and memory. He was honest and honorable, a person who stood up for what he believed, championed the underdog and no matter what others may think they know, he was a true hero.

With so many currently serving and so many giving the ultimate sacrifice there are those who’s loss has faded in our collective memory. Yet they are heroes all the same and I have not forgotten them. 

Remember you don’t have to support war to support a Veteran or honor the fallen.

 

Visiting Annapolis, Maryland with Kids

Annapolis Maryland

From the hallowed halls of the United States Naval Academy, to the quaint City Dock, and dozens of points in between, Maryland’s charming and historic capital makes for a perfect day-trip (or longer) with the family. 

U.S. Naval Academy Museum

 Moon Rock housed at U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

 This hidden gem of a museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors from around the globe every year. Located in Preble Hall on the gorgeous grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, the museum offers two floors of exhibits about the history of seapower, the development of the U.S. Navy, and the the history of U.S. Naval Academy. Exhibits include artifacts from historical figures, battles and events. Touch a piece of the actual U.S.S. Monitor, read letters penned by Admirals and presidents, see sand from the island of Iwo Jima as you take a walk through the history of our Navy – and country. There is even an actual moon rock donated to the museum by Apollo 14 astronauts. 

The best part? Admission to the museum is FREE!

Address:  118 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21402. Phone: (410) 293-2108. Website: www.USNA.edu/museum  Hours: Monday – Friday from 7:00am to 3:30pm

Annapolis City Dock

Visting "Ego Alley" at City Dock in Annapolis Maryland

Rest here for a spell and have Alex Haley “read” your kids a story. The author of “Roots,” is immortalized in a sculpture that invites you to listen at his feet. I took along some books to read to my kids and soon found I’d started an impromptu story time for a few others.  Directly behind Mr. Haley is the City Dock Market House. Inside you’ll find food stalls serving up seaside favorites, and day-trip delicacies like famed Maryland Crab cakes and decadent gelato, perfect on a warm, sunny day. Walk off some of those calories with a stroll down “Ego Alley” where beautiful pleasure boats are docked. 

Don’t forget to bring along a little something to feed the ducks!

Parking: There is metered parking near City Dock, you’ve got great luck if you can snag one of those. If not, the Noah Hillman parking garage is just off Main Street in the Historic District at 150 Gorman Street.

Chick & Ruth’s Delly

Famous "Ben Cardin" Double Ruben at Chick & Ruth's Delly Anapolis Maryland

Speaking of eating! I say -with some authority as both a traveler and a foodie – that everyone MUST make the pilgrimage to the Delly at least one time (if not dozens.) Don’t let the cramped quarters, layer of grease or the fact that they call it a “Delly,” deter you. Chick & Ruth’s is a Maryland institution for good reason.

  • Crab Cakes as big as your head (okay, maybe a little smaller)
  • Matzo Ball Soup any Bubbe would envy
  • House-made dill pickles, a complementary treat you’ll pucker up to
  • A huge of menu items to choose from – many named after the local politicians who come down the street from the Capital Building daily
  • And the famed Colossal Challenges like the SIX POUND SHAKE (no really, it’s six pounds of milkshake) infamously conquered by Adam Richman of “Man vs Food” fame

Address: 165 Main St, Annapolis, MD 21401. Phone: (410) 269-6737. Website: www.chickandruths.com 

Pirate Adventures of the Chesapeake

Ahoy all ye adventurous scallywags! Really, what trip to an historical port city like Annapolis would be complete without a pirate adventure? Mysterious messages in bottles, hidden treasure, and an epic adventure await those who embark upon a voyage aboard  The Sea Gypsy. This fun, family-friendly ship sails from Annapolis Harbor seven days a week during the summer months and on weekends through October 26th. Your ticket to ride will cost you $20 for those over three and $12 for those under. 

Be sure to arrive early to get gussied up in pirate finery!

Address: 311 Third St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 263-0002. Website: www.chesapeakpirates.com 

Annapolis Maritime Museum

If you’re making Annapolis a stopover during a trip to DC you might think you’ve been museum-ed out, but trust me you’ll want to make room for one more – THIS ONE! Why? Because of the hands-on history lesson your family will get. This small museum is set on the picturesque mouth of Back Creek, with a unique view overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The museum takes advantage of the fact that it is housed in the last oyster-packing plant in Annapolis, engaging visitors in a fully interactive experience that takes them on a journey through the role that the water and they oyster industry played in the shaping of the area. You’ll also learn about the ecology of the area through a 850 gallon aquarium and exhibits that highlight the importance of conservation efforts.

An afternoon at the Annapolis Maritime Museum is FREE family fun!

Address: 723 2nd St, Annapolis, MD 21403. Phone: (410) 295-0104. Website: www.amaritime.org

Galleries, Eateries and Shopping… Oh, My!

Down Town Annapolis Maryland

My kids happen to be gifted browsers. They love to shop. It may be genetic. Annapolis is wonderland for those who love to stroll in and out of shops and galleries, searching for treasures and inspiration. Though there are some chain stores to be found on main street, they are out numbered by smaller, more unique and locally owned boutique stores. Annapolis boasts a thriving art community and you’ll find a number of places that feature locally produced items. One of our favorite shops is Annapolis Pottery. Though not all of their items are produced locally, 95% of their products are produced in the U.S. and many of them are sourced directly from the artists who produce them. 

Hungry? Annapolis is the place to be! I polled the kids for recommendations. Here is what THEY recommend;

  • Potato Valley Cafe – A tasty elevation of the humble spud 
  • Castlebay Irish Pub – This one gets on the list for the rose shaped salmon and the fish and chips. Our picky eater loves salmon – go figure!
  • Miss Shirley’s Cafe – A Baltimore staple now found in Annapolis, my kids would hurt you to get at a stack of their lemon-blueberry pancakes
  • Chick & Ruth’s Delly – They’re begging for that 6 pound shake, but happily settle for pizza bagels make on fresh, full-sized bagel halves and burgers from the kid’s menu that are big enough for a grown up. You’ll never leave this place hungry! Plus their kid’s menu prices hover around $5!

Don’t miss the chickens. Really, we know how I am about chickens. Annapolis is flocking full of the foul in the form of 5 foot tall fun, funky and thought provoking sculptures found through out the city.  If you go, snap a photo and I’ll be happy to add it to this post with photo credit.

Parking: There is both metered parking and several public parking garages, as well as valet service at City Dock. You can find a map of the garages here.

Up next… where to STAY in Annapolis if you aren’t lucky enough to live 20 minutes away… or even if you are… hello staycation!

 

 

(photo credit – Annapolis Waterfront m01229)

The Government Shutdown… Planned?!

When our National Zoo panda plans had to be put aside due to the Government Shutdown… I shrugged it off.

When my husband reported for his first day of working with no pay… I was admittedly perturbed. But hey, this couldn’t be allowed to go on for long, could it?

When the news seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time covering the “impact” of closed museums, monuments and parks… I started eying my soapbox.

When I read this headline in the New York Times, “A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning

I. Lost. My. Shit.

A small group of well-funded, and/or independently wealthy people are currently patting themselves on the back for their successful planing? WTH?!

My family does lots of planning too. Despite all our planing, we just couldn’t plan for things like;

  • My husband working for free
  • No paycheck
  • Our mortgage payment not being sent
  • Health insurance going unpaid
  • Dozens of bills, that come out of our paycheck through electronic dispersal, not getting there on time
  • Still having our family budget pay for the small things that allow my husband to be at work  (He’s essential personnel, just not the essential enough for a paycheck!)

I’m disgusted that a small faction of elected officials and their “brain trust” are proudly touting their using, “the power of the purse” to hold my family’s financial well being hostage.  As outraged as I am, my family is lucky. The planning we have done has helped us be able to weather this carnival of idiocy. There are hundreds of families out there that aren’t as lucky. From the single income Federal Employee household, to the small businesses that rely on us spending our now non-existent paychecks on their goods and services, thousands of families didn’t plan… couldn’t plan for this.

 

just do your job

Dear Lawmakers,

I don’t care what your reasoning is, what political ideology you subscribe to or who you choose to blame for the shutdown. Get your dam job done. We’re paying you for it.

Veteran’s Day: A Letter To Those I Served Alongside

n’s DayDear Brothers and Sisters,

Some of us came for a cause, moved to serve by life-altering happenstance. Others arrived here in the footsteps of long family tradition. Many came in search of purpose, lost and hoping to find ourselves. A few arrived, escorted by lack of choice. We were so young. Children really, holding on with ever slackening grip to the carefree days of youth. No matter how, or from where we came, we would depart with bonds that tether us forever, together.

Through war, in peace, in times of victory and gathered together to ward off the pains of defeat, we are one. We have served this great nation. Some have given far more that others can comprehend, the scars of which they carry both outwardly and within. Yet, not one of us left without the tie that binds. In the hearts of all who have served rests the light of those who went before us, and hope for those to come.

My time in the uniform of the United States Navy, has long since passed. The pride I have in being one amongst you, a member of the family of Veterans who served, and continue to serve, defending the liberty of this country, fighting for the freedom of uncountable others, rendering aid to those in need, will not diminish with time. I am honored to stand along side of each of you, and shall always be.

With Gratitude,

Lara DiPaola
Formerly Aviation Boatswains Mate (90-94)
United States Navy

Photo credit: “Vietnam Reflections” by Lee Teter

 

This Veteran’s Day, would you consider lending your voice, time, support and/or money to charities that help heal the wounds -both seen and unseen- of my fellow veterans?

“Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” -Michel de Montaigne

Operation Freedom Paws provides service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Musicorps is an amazing concept and effort! They teach music to veterans who’s lives have been forever changed by the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, and PTSD. This past week a band of brothers -and actual band– took the stage with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd in the Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert.

Sew Much Comfort makes adaptive clothing for the wounded. I personally would never have thought about a something as simple, yet necessary, as clothing altered for those who have lost limbs. Read more about this wonderful effort in this post by my friend Candace at Army Wives Lives.

For more information on charities that may not have the backing of big corporations or foundations, but could sure use yours, see this post from the indomitable and inspiring Lisa Douglas, military mom to seven and author of one of my favorite blogs, Crazy Adventures in Parenting.

Let us also not forget that though today is Veteran’s Day, no veteran serves alone. They take with them, to all theaters of battle and peace, the hearts and souls of their families. One of my favorite organizations that helps support military families is Operation Shower, read all about the great work they do in this post by the ever gifted (seriously, I want to BE her) Dawn Sandomeno of Party Blueprints.

 

Fit Pitchin’ Friday: Random Crap that Chapped my tail this week

To start things off the fact that I have zero time for my blog, your blog or any other blog. UNFAIR

Now onto the other crap from the week past, that sent me into screaming frenzies at both the audacity and idiocy of the human creature.

Exibit A

This week the elected brain trust of the city of San Francisco became the first city in our fair country to ban Happy Meal toys in meals that contained over a certain amount of calories.

City supervisor Eric “I know how to parent YOUR kids”  Mar was quoted as having said, “We’re part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice”. Um.. “Food Justice”? Please do be splaining this to me Mr. Mar. You see I am such a lazy ignoramus, so unfit to parent my own children, that not only am I incapable of making good food choices for them I have no clue what the hell you are talking about. Seriously at what point did a McNugget become become public enemy number one? Was is around the same time that, we as parents collectively became wholly unable to employ the long proven tactic of “I don’t care if you want the dam toy! I said no and “no” means NO!” I do not need you or your “agenda” to tell me how to feed my family. If what you’re trying to do is make healthy food more attractive to families why not start with putting pricing caps on organic foods. Hello, my last Whole Foods bill likely knocked one of the brood off the “College Bound” list.

Exibit B

Chalk up a “win” for the First Amendment gang. This week the World’s largest on-line retailer, Amazon, took a stand for the little guy (which is why I’m assuming he has his “issues”) a pedophile who wrote an e-book with “guidelines that will hopefully help you if you ever get caught” (from the actual Amazon listing).  When inundated with emails from outraged customers (yours truly included) this is part of what Amazon had to say…

“our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking. That selection includes some items which many people may find objectionable. Therefore, the items offered on our website represent a wide spectrum of opinions on a variety of topics…Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we’ll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they’re prohibited by law.”

(for the record Amazon will not sell adult on adult porn.. but this.. sure why not?)

I am the FIRST person who will rally behind the cause of preventing censorship. I went to a school where book banning was the local pass-time. That said, I think giving “tips and guidelines for having safe pleasure” when we’re talking about CHILDREN just might border on criminal. Thankfully Amazon freaked the fuck out when faced with a boycott during the holidays saw the light and did the right thing. The book was pulled yesterday afternoon.

Exibit C

Yesterday was Veterans Day. I usually have a post up (read last year’s, if only to see me in uniform, rawr). This year I didn’t write one. I saved my thoughts for today. Why? Well because the public school in the FINE state of Maryland (the “Free State”, ironically made so through the sacrifice of  Veteran.. ahem) could not .. ONCE AGAIN.. see their way to observing the day. Yep, yet again the schools were open. This really gets me. Our schools close for everything! The number of “in-services” is dizzying. Yet they can’t take pause to pay proper respect the the “service” that matters most. WHATEVERRRR! It sickens me so much, that if it were not for the fact that I’d have to spend the whole day with my own kids, I’d have pulled them out of school in protest.

You don't have to support war to support our troops!

So gang… how was your week? Who cheesed you off? What ridiculous policy chapped your hide? Which one of you has a fit to pitch? Come on.. you KNOW you wanna. SO just DO IT! Let it all hang out.. give em what for. Or just leave an anonymous comment telling off some nameless, faceless person who offended ya. We’ve all been there.